Rudi Skacel only needed two minutes to exhibit a rare moment of quality in a Raith Rovers performance devoid of flair after setting up Mark Stewart to score an injury-time winner against Queen of the South
The Czech climbed off the bench in the 89th minute and dug out an inviting cross from the right flank that was prodded in at the back post by the forward to hand Rovers a second successive victory.
The result was harsh on the Doonhamers, who have now slipped to fourth in the Championship behind Raith, after the visitors created enough chances to pick up their first league win since overcoming yesterday’s opponents six matches ago.
“It was a wee bit of quality that won us the game,” said Rovers manager Gary Locke.
“Rudi is an experienced player, he knows he’s at a stage of his career that he’ll not play every single game but it’s important for me and the backroom staff that we know we have a player of his quality. I’m delighted he’s gone in there and put in that cross, sometimes as manager you get lucky with your substitutions.”
Queens, who have now gone 460 minutes without a league goal, were aggrieved that the game was goal-less at the break.
Only four minutes were on the clock when Stephen Dobbie was presented with an opening but the Doonhamers hitman’s tame effort from close range was pushed away by Kevin Cuthbert after Steven Rigg had knocked down Grant Anderson’s cross.
Rigg then shot over himself before referee Crawford Allan left Queens incandescent when he ruled out a penalty in the 33rd minute. Anderson drove into the box and got goal-side of Kevin McHattie but fell to the turf just as he was lining up a shot
Raith heaved a sigh of relief again two minutes later when Jordan Marshall’s corner caused panic before Cuthbert pulled of a fine stop to block Rigg’s effort from inside the six-yard box.
The second half started in a similar fashion, scrappy for most parts but with Queens carving out the chances.
Dobbie again found himself in a good position to get on the end of Darren Brownlie’s deep cross but his downward header was straight at Cuthbert. The experienced marksman turned provider moments later but Chris Higgins’ near post flick landed on the roof of the net from a Dobbie free kick.
Cuthbert was to prove Dobbie’s nemesis in the dying stages. The keeper made a comfortable save to keep out the striker’s effort from distance before brilliantly palming behind a finger-tip save from a free-kick in the 83rd minute.
Stewart, who played with a broken wrist, then popped up in injury-time to secure the three points for Raith with the home side’s first shot on target.
“With the effort and the way we played, we can’t ask for anymore,” said Queens manager Gavin Skelton.
“It hasn’t fallen for us, in terms of performance I thought we were excellent – we would have been disappointed coming away with a draw.”